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"Crafts for kids" says Harry Chapin, can ruin children

Updated on July 17, 2008

Famous songwriter sings about crafts for kids

Harry Chapin singing about crafts for kids?

Harry Chapin, as many of you already know who is long deceased was the famous songwriter of the famous song Cats in the Cradle fame. By listening to his songs you can tell that he was a was a real children's advocate.He understood what was important in life to the extent that he even chose to sing about a child and his experience in arts and crafts.

What is interesting is his understanding of a topic that is usually left to early childhood educators crafts or art for kids.This is an important topic that many adults who have daily contact with children must learn so they can give children the best experiences and Harry does his best to convey why.

This not so well known song called "Flowers are Red" tells the story of a little boy in school. He is doing art, obviously loves art and as he si either coloring or painting he sees so many colors in the rainbow and wants to use every one of them.

His teacher is a very traditional (somewhat rigid)sort that does not allow for any creativity and she keeps telling him

"Flowers are Red young man..and green leaves are green .

There is no need to see flowers any other way but the way they always have been seen"

But the little boy keeps insisting that there are so many colors in a rainbow, so many colors in the morning sun and he sees every one and he wants to use them all.

The teacher gets annoyed, calls hims sassy, and then puts him in the corner when he fails to follow her directions, until he is finally parroting after her

"Flowers are Red and green leaves are green".

After a while, time goes by and the little boy moves away. He goes to another school where he has a new, warm and open-minded, creative teacher.

This teacher sees him making rows of flowers that are plain old red and green and trys to get him to use all the colors that are in flowers. Unfortunately the previous teacher has killed any creativity in this child and he keeps parroting the mantra she has instilled in him" flowers are red and green leaves are green".

She cannot get him to create freely as a result of his bad experience in his last school.

What a sad and common commentary on peoples understanding of the proper way to do art or arts and crafts with children. So many teachers and parents think they are doing children favors by giving them arts and crafts(or what they consider art) without understanding what they are doing to the children.

Aside from killing this little boys creativity the teacher in the song killed a few more things.

She killed his self esteem because her message was "Only what I tell you is good, not what you see and want to do". A little boy develops his self esteem by the messages he gets from the adults around him and this message was not one to build self esteem.

She also called his initiative. What child will want to try new things after being knocked down like that.

She killed any chance he has of being independent and a self starter. Who wants to take the chance of being a failure when you can wait until the adult tells him what to do and than he knows he's doing the right thing.He doesnt have to-worry about failure this way.

She also missed any opportunities she could have had in using this activity to help him use his mind to think and solve problems.

Look at all those major ramifications occurred from just something so seemingly unimportant like an arts and crafts activity.

This then is what traditional crafts activities do to our children. They rob them of all of those skills and it's not so easy to build them up once they are destroyed.I

It will take quite a while to get a little boy like that to trust enough again to go back to being the carefree, creative, confident self starter he used to be.

At the end of the song (click on link at bottom to go listen to it) Harry Chapin asks a question...he says

"there still must be a way to have our children say......There are so many colors in a many colors in the morning sun"?

And there is: There is a way to give crafts to children or REAL art that allows their creativity to flourish as their true developmental needs are met. Below are some flower collages that children have done by giving them the materials and allowing them to create as they are able to at their age. Notice closely...they are not red and green but they are all different and the children have used all the colors in the rainbow.

If you would like to learn how to set up another activity this way like using the educational arts and crafts approach you will then be doing art activities that would make Harry Chapin proud.

Click on arrow to see short slide show of how creative childrens flowers can be when allowed to be creative

Click thumbnail to view full-size

Some great process only art books for children that Harry Chapin would be proud of


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    • profile image

      JJ 9 years ago

      I remember my art teacher in elementary school playing this song for us. It has stuck with me ever since.

    • faigekobre profile image

      faigekobre 9 years ago from NY

      I think anyone that is a thinking person gets impressed by the logic of non copycat crafts for kids. It's just that it is so prevelant in our society that people think art is for the real artists and everyone else just does coycat crafts. and yes it is sad that schools don't encourage it which is what I'm trying to change but will take a long time.

    • wannabwestern profile image

      Carolyn Augustine 9 years ago from Iowa

      I agree with your well-worded sentiments. In my observation as a parent of elementary-aged children, and former story time presenter, I think of the mind-deadening copy-cat crafts you describe in your other article as trophy crafts and the other method as "Art". Art is an important way to help children learn to think, express themselves, and form their own ideas, as well as an outlet for creativity. It is sad that school curriculums don't usually encourage the type of art you describe. I recently finished a copycat-project hub, but your hubs give me great food for thought. Thanks for your contribution. A big thumbs up!

    • Eric Graudins profile image

      Eric Graudins 9 years ago from Australia

      I love the songs of Haryy Chapin, and have been inspired by the words of "Flowers Are Red" to guide the lives of my own children.

      One of the greatest regrets in my life is not going to see him in concert when he came to Australia. I thought that I'd see him "next time".

      Unfortunately he was killed in a car accident, and there was no next time.